The Politics of 'O-P-M'

John McCain injected a heavy dose of populism into his campaign this week, launching an ad in which he tells voters that their economic security has been "put at risk by the greed of Wall Street."

"That's unacceptable," McCain says straight to camera. "My opponent's only solution is talk and taxes. I'll reform Wall Street and fix Washington."

Watch McCain's ad: LINK

Playing off his POW background, the McCain campaign is trying to personalize the current financial crisis with the senator saying in his ad: "I've taken on tougher guys than this before."

The trouble for McCain -- as ABC's David Wright noted on the Wednesday edition of "World News with Charles Gibson" -- is that for 25 years in Congress, McCain has fashioned himself as a champion of smaller government and less regulation.

A decade ago, McCain supported legislation that broke down the firewalls between commercial and investment banks and insurance companies.

Republicans can rightly point out that Joe Biden also supported the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Financial Modernization Act of 1999.

But what separates McCain from both Biden and Obama is that as recently as March of this year, in the wake of the Bear Stearns collapse, it was McCain who was calling for further deregulation of Wall Street.

"Our financial market approach should include encouraging increased capital in financial institutions by removing regulatory, accounting and tax impediments to raising capital," said McCain in March of this year.

Sensing that McCain was beginning to run away from his record on financial deregulation, Democrats pounced on Wednesday.

"By the end of the week," Barack Obama joked in Elko, Nev., "John McCain and Phil Gramm, they're gonna be talking about how they're gonna grab those seven lobbyists, they're gonna plan to storm the Treasury Department with torches and pitchforks. Come on!"

The Obama camp was also quick to make sure that no one missed that McCain had undergone a quick reversal on the wisdom of the AIG bailout.

Appearing earlier this week on NBC's "Today," McCain said, "We cannot have the taxpayers bail out AIG or anybody else."

But by the time the Republican presidential nominee appeared Wednesday on ABC's "Good Morning America" he had changed his tune.

"I don't think anybody I know wanted to do that," said McCain, referring to the AIG bailout. "But there are literally millions of people whose retirement, whose investments, whose insurance were at risk here and they were going to have their lives destroyed."

Asked about the reversal, McCain economic adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin said that the senator "supports the particulars of the action but regrets that circumstances forced us to actually have to do it."

McCain's adviser went on to say that his assertion that AIG should be "on their own" and that no taxpayer money should be put up to help them was a statement of philosophy but left unsaid in his "truncated" answer on "Today" was McCain's belief that there may sometimes be circumstances where the repercussions of an institution's failure are so horrific that they must be bailed out.

Although McCain is now talking tough on Wall Street, it may be difficult to avoid the impression -- in the words of George F. Will -- that "when deregulation was the wave through Washington, [McCain] surfed that wave."

The Kicker:

"No one knows what to do."
--Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid when asked what Congress can do to address the U.S. financial crisis.

On the campaign front. . .

BARACK OBAMA
-- 12:30 pm ET (Doors) – Holds Rally in Espanola, NM.

JOE BIDEN
-- 10:00 am ET – Holds Rally in Canton, OH.
-- 2:00 pm ET - Holds Rally in Akron, OH.
-- 6:00 pm ET - Holds Rally in Youngstown, OH.

MICHELLE OBAMA
-- 9:00 am ET (Doors) - Holds economic roundtable with women in Charlotte, NC
-- 1:30 pm ET - Holds rally in Greensboro, NC

JOHN McCAIN
-- 11:00 am ET – Holds Rally in Cedar Rapids, IA
-- 8:00 pm ET - Holds Rally in Green Bay, WI

SARAH PALIN
-- 11:00 am ET – Holds Rally in Cedar Rapids, IA
-- 8:00 pm ET - Holds Rally in Green Bay, WI

At the White House. . .

PRESIDENT BUSH
-- No public events.

POLITICAL NEWS STORIES ON ABCNEWS.COM

ABC News' Ron Claiborne: McCain Shifts Opposition on Government Bailout of Insurance Giant LINK

ABC News' Jake Tapper: Obama Does Hollywood LINK

ABC News' Rick Klein: Swing-State Sashay LINK

ABC News' Rick Klein: Brad Paisley: Unaligned Celebrity LINK

ABC News' John Berman: The Battle in the Buckeye State LINK

ABC News' Ron Claiborne: McCain Shifts Opposition on Government Bailout of Insurance Giant LINK

ABC News' Z. Byron Wolf: Senate Majority Leader on Economic Woes: 'No One Knows What to Do' LINK

ABC News' Matt Jaffe: Biden Launches Bus Tour in Battleground Buckeye State LINK

ABC News' Imtiyaz Delawala and Teddy Davis: No Joint Clinton-Palin Appearance at New York Rally LINK

ABC News' Tahman Bradley: Campaign TV Spending Exceeds $15 Million Since Convention LINK

ABC News' Jake Tapper: Bare Sterns* LINK

ABC News' Jake Tapper: Despite Claims Today He Warned of this Crisis, McCain in 2007 Said He Didn't See This Crisis Coming LINK

ABC News' Jake Tapper: AIG, AIG, AIG, AGGGGGHHHHHH LINK

ABC News' Jake Tapper: Does Obama Support the AIG Bailout? LINK

ABC News' Jake Tapper: Now the McCain Campaign's Complaining that Saturday Night Live Skit Was 'Sexist' LINK

POLITICAL VIDEO ON ABCNEWS.COM

Bush Thanks Petraeus for 'Dedication'
Bush expresses gratitude for the general's service and addresses Yemen attack. LINK

'View' Feud Over Campaign Fundraising
The ladies debate the fundraising differences between Senators Obama and McCain. LINK

Change in Command in Iraq
Gen. Petraeus steps down as top commander in Iraq to head CENTCOM. LINK

McCain Vs. Obama on the Economy
Candidates frame the economy as a leadership issue, but "What's The Difference?" LINK

Kimmel: 'Worst' Financial Advice
"The Worst Financial Team" tells you where to invest your hard-earned dollars. LINK

Kimmel: Sarah Palin's Tanning Time
Jimmy has some fun at the expense of the Alaska governor and a tanning bed. LINK

McCain on AIG
The senator discusses his thoughts on the bailout of the insurance giant. LINK

Campaigning With the McCains
John and Cindy McCain discuss supporting one another on the campaign trail. LINK

Wooing Ohio
The swing state is seen as crucial prize in presidential race. LINK